Loutit now part of Grand Haven foundation

October 14, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Loutit Foundation this year transferred its assets of approximately $2.5 million to the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, creating a new partnership in philanthropy, according to an announcement by Jon Eshleman, chairman of the Loutit Foundation.

“The Loutit Foundation trustees will continue to honor the legacy of the Loutit family by providing grants in the areas that were of special concern to the Loutit family: health, education and community welfare,” said Eshleman.

“It’s really a partnership,” said GHACF President Ann Tabor. “Legally, the Loutit Foundation is now a component fund of the Community Foundation, but technically, I think the exciting part for both the Loutit Foundation and ourselves is it will really be a partnership, where the Loutit Foundation is able to do their business of making grants that make a difference in the community. They can just focus on that, and we will be their back office.”

GHACF, in effect, will now serve as the administrative staff for the Loutit Foundation, she said, responding to requests for grants, managing the paperwork, disbursements, tax matters and other tasks.

“It is an honor that the Loutit Foundation, which has had such a significant impact in our community, has joined with the Community Foundation to do its work,” she added.

Loutit, in fact, played a major role in getting the GHACF started in 1971.

According to Tabor, GHACF was originally the idea of a dozen individuals from Grand Haven, who got together and “put a hundred dollars each into a pot — literally — and said, ‘With this $1,200, let’s start a community foundation in Grand Haven.’”

Tabor added, however, that experts on foundations advised the group at the time not to attempt it, stating that “no community with under 250,000 people will ever be successful in having its own community foundation.”

Loutit Foundation then offered a challenge grant to the fledgling GHACF to help it get started, and the challenge was accepted.

“So here we are today, at just around $60 million, and all of that has been raised since 1971, basically by people who live here,” said Tabor.

The Loutit Foundation was created by William R. and Catherine Loutit, and began making grants after their deaths in the early 1960s. They had no children and were the recipients of the estates of his father and grandfather. His grandfather, William R. Loutit, known as Captain Loutit, was one of the founders of Grand Haven, and his father, William H. Loutit, was a successful businessman in the area and amassed a sizable estate, according to the Loutit Foundation.

The Loutit Foundation is known locally for the major projects it has helped fund, particularly the Loutit Library and the Community Center in downtown Grand Haven. Major grants were also made to the Tri-Cities Family YMCA and North Ottawa Community Hospital. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the foundation began buying property along Harbor Avenue in Grand Haven, which eventually became Centennial Park. Further funding aided the development of the boardwalk along the Grand River, creating one of the best known series of downtown/Lake Michigan connector parks on the west coast of Michigan, according to the foundation.

The original Loutit Foundation board included Paul A. Johnson, president, Harvey Scholten, vice president, and E.V. Erickson. The secretary/treasurer’s seat was designated to Michigan National Bank; its original representative was Jack Uhl. In the mid-1960s, Eugene Harbeck was added to the board.

Since its formation, the Loutit Foundation has dispersed more than $11 million.

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